How to Get your Full Security Deposit Back: A First Time Renter’s Guide to Effortless Cleaning


As we all know, renting a house or apartment in 2021 is expensive! On top of paying rent each month, you’re often required to put down a security deposit AND first & last month’s rent before even moving in. More often than not, first-time renters don’t receive their full security deposit back due to a lack of cleaning. I myself had this issue when moving out of my first rental. It was incredibly disheartening to learn that over half of my security deposit would not be returned to me, over $1500! We wanted to create this guide which lays out how to best clean your home while renting to maximize your chances of receiving your security deposit back in full so that no one ever has this issue again.

Step 1) Read Your Lease Thoroughly

The first step of getting your security deposit back is to (and I can’t stress this enough) read your lease thoroughly! It’s a great way to figure out what you should clean on your own, rather than your landlord who will use your security deposit to pay for the service to be done. For example, most landlords will charge you an incredible amount of money to clean the carpets after moving out. It may be significantly more cost effective to rent a commercial carpet cleaner or even hire a company on your own to clean your rugs. Note: performing home maintenance like this can sometimes be a violation of your lease. Always talk with your landlord before hiring a cleaning company to service your rental home.

Step 2) Dust Consistently

The average household accumulates over 40 pounds of dust per year, that’s a lot! It’s important to dust weekly for not only your own health, but to ensure dust and mildew don’t create an incredibly hard problem to clean after a year(s) of neglect. It’s much easier to clean a little every week than to tackle the whole problem at once while moving out. Take it from me, I lived in my first rental for three years and not once did I dust my garage or behind my couches. It was an incredible pain to clean, my vacuum constantly jammed up, and I couldn’t stop coughing from all the dust that got into the air. Trust me, it’s not worth leaving! Not only does dusting remove dust (obviously) but it also forces you to see the other areas in your home which are in need of cleaning, such as window sills. Bringing us to our next point…

Step 3) Clean Your Window Sills

Trust me, this one is even more important than dusting, especially if your house has high humidity. In the winter when windows are covered by blinds and curtains, it’s easy to forget that window sills exist, collecting mold as they sit untouched by a Clorox wipe for months at a time. Not only is this terrible for your health, but it’s also terrible for your wallet. When mold is left for extended periods of time, it begins to stain the window sills which can be incredibly hard to get off. More likely than not, you won’t be able to remove these stains on your own, requiring your landlord to hire a professional to take care of the issue, draining your security deposit. Prevent this problem in the first place with regular cleaning!

Step 4) Clean Your Kitchen and Bathroom Regularly

We can’t talk about mold without also mentioning kitchens and bathrooms. Again this is pretty straight forward, mold obviously collects in our sinks and showers which most of us clean regularly. What new renters (such as myself) often forget however is that mold grows everywhere in these rooms. Remember to always check up on those “out of sight, out of mind” places such as your refrigerator, under the sinks, and behind the toilet.

Step 5) Clean Your Oven and Microwave Consistently 

The oven and microwave are probably some of the most annoying appliances to clean in the whole house, which is why it’s important to do it regularly! Think about it, remember the last time you had to clean a hard-to-remove stain and how long it took? Now imagine if that stain had been sitting there over a year, how much harder would it be to remove? Save yourself the time and energy and remove stains before they become permanent! Pro tip: Mr. Clean magic erasers are great for this.

Step 6) Use Coasters and Wipe Up Water Rings

If your rental comes with furniture, always make sure to clean up any liquids that get spilled. Trust me, you do not want to have to pay for an entire new table just because you didn’t use a coaster one time, leaving a water-ring stain. Be proactive now and your wallet will thank you later.

Step 7) Deep Clean the Whole Place Once a Month

It’s really easy to get into the mindset of “I’ll just take a day or two to clean the whole place once I move out” and only do surface level cleaning until then, but trust me, this is a TERRIBLE idea! Not only will you be stressed and tired from moving, but you’ll also be in a crunch for time. Deep cleaning the house before a move often takes longer than expected because you discover for the first time how dirty your house actually is. At this point, you’ll probably be either too tired or run out of time to get everything cleaned as you expected, requiring your landlord to finish the cleaning, taking more money out of your security deposit. Instead, take time once a month to do a deep cleaning of the whole house, and I mean a DEEP clean. Move your couches around to vacuum under them, vacuum behind the washer and dryer, wipe down the shelves in your fridge, check to see if the dishwasher has collected any mold, and anything else you can think of. The more you do now, the more time, money, and stress you’ll save later!

Step 7) Clean the Gutters: Don’t Forget about Your Exterior!

When thinking about cleaning our homes, 9 times out of 10 we only think about the interiors. Gutters need to be cleaned regularly and if neglected, can actually begin to break, leading to other issues such as basement flooding and foundation damage (which could cost your entire security deposit to address!). Fortunately, gutters are one of the easiest forms of exterior cleaning. If you don’t personally feel comfortable climbing a ladder or would like the outsides of the gutters to be washed as well, consider hiring a professional such as Bayside Exterior Cleaning. They have affordable rates and start off every job with a free estimate so you’ll know if a gutter cleaning is within your budget.


Renting for the first time is an exciting, yet expensive experience. In order to maximize the return of your security deposit, it’s important to regularly clean your apartment so that it doesn’t turn into a massive issue right before move-out. We hope this guide helps you to think about what areas in your home have the potential to become cleaning nightmares and that you’re able to get your security deposit back in full!

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